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charlie chaplinCharlie Chaplin made a name for himself by mindfully rejecting "many elements of the classic Hollywood style," reports Farran Smith Nehme in a Wall Street Journal review of Charlie Chaplin, Director by Donna Kornhaber (6/7/14). Chaplin’s iconic character, The Tramp, was born when Mack Sennett, his boss at Keystone Studios, sent him "to wardrobe to find a comic get-up. Chaplin put on baggy pants, a tight coat and a derby hat. He picked up a cane and added a small mustache to age his 24-year-old face." (image)

Chaplin made a short film, Mabel’s Strange Predicament, that day — about 100 years ago — and within months was directing his own films. His style, which flew in the face of convention, typically involved "long takes, few edits and fewer close-ups" than usual. His frames feature "enormous variation, including foreground action occurring simultaneously with the background." This approach "has its roots in slapstick, a style that benefits from seeing everything that’s going on."

Chaplin’s explanation to those who questioned his methods, was "I act with my feet as much as my head." Donna Kornhaber says the result was "in many ways, a mess." "The only trait that is absolutely consistent across every film with the Tramp — even including his physical movements and characteristics — is the mustache," she writes. And yet when "asked to list the 10 greatest films of all time the French director Robert Bresson listed City Lights twice, The Gold Rush once, and left the rest of the list blank."